A recent study has linked a parasite generally carried by cats to a decline in memory and reading aptitude in children.
The discovery was made by a team of researchers from the University of Iowa and Florida International University, The Telegraph reported on Monday.
According to the scientists, Toxoplasma gondii, a single cell organism which lives and reproduces in the intestines of cats, causes the adverse effects.
The research showed that children who tested positive for the parasite also had poorer reading and memory scores in cognitive tests.
“The results suggest that Toxoplasma gondii seropositivity is associated with poor reading performance and impaired verbal memory,” the research published in the journal Parasitology stated.
The research also revealed that vitamin E could help reduce the effects.
“Serum vitamin E seems to modify the relationship between the parasite and verbal memory with greater Toxoplasma-associated memory impairment found in participants with lower vitamin E level,” the research added.
Rats infected by the parasite are known to lose their fear of cats, which makes it easier for them to be eaten, so the parasite can be reintroduced to the intestines of the cats where it can reproduce.
The parasite, which can be spread through contact with feces, has previously been linked to brain tumors in other animals and increased aggressiveness in men. Some scientists have even proved that Toxoplasma gondii can make women cheat on their husbands.
The chief sources of human infection are consumption of undercooked meat or water and soil contaminated by feces.
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